*…father of Ondo arson victims cries for justice
*Death toll rises
By Dayo Johnson, Akure
64-year-old timber merchant and father of 10, Ojo Joseph, has, to the chagrin of many, adduced reasons why he decided to kill his five step children and spared his own 18-month-old twins born by his fourth wife, Esther, who is also the mother of the slain five children.
The news of the ugly incident raised questions within and across the country as to the heinous act of cruelty by the stepfather against innocent souls while they were asleep.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that neighbors still discuss the sad incident in hush tones weeks after it happened.
Recall that one of the children was burnt beyond recognition in the inferno while two others died in hospital following the degree of the injuries they sustained in the fire.
Reports alleged that the suspect, in 2020, strangulated his first wife in the presence of their five-year-old daughter during a fight over N100, 000.
Sources said the family of the deceased wife, decided not to press charges against him because of their daughter.
“It after that ugly incident that he married the present wife who bore him twins. The woman brought in her five children from her previous marriage to the man’s house”, one of the sources said.
Food, sex, punching bag
Ojo, who said proudly that he had been married four times when he was paraded by the police in Akure, wondered why his wife would deny him food and sex for months.
The suspect, his wife, the five stepchildren and twins all lived in one room apartment at Ayesanmi Street, Odojomu area of Ondo town.
While the suspect, wife and twins always slept in the room at night, the stepchildren would sleep at the passage.
He narrated, “I am 64 years old. I have married four wives. I did not strangulate my first wife. I have 10 children from different women.
“The one I married last, if I gave her money and she bought food, she did not give me food. She did not wash my clothes. She always fought me.
“We have been together for two years. She and her children used to fight and beat me.
“We were always fighting. She would not fetch water for me. She fought the whole street. She always fought me alongside her children. They always beat me.
“We fought the day I set the children ablaze. Everybody in the street knew the children used to beat me. We fought the night I set them ablaze because I gave her N600 to prepare food for the family but I was not given any food that night. I then decided to kill all of them”.
The suspect reportedly made sure that the five stepchildren were gathered in the room , sprayed it with petrol and set the room ablaze.
Ojo alleged that his wife did not initially disclosed that she had five children in her first marriage but he got to know after she parked into his house.
“Although she had twins for me, she never told me that she had given birth to five children. She told me she had two children and I decided to let her stay with me.
“It was later, after parking in with me, that she told me she had another three children who were staying with her mother making five of them.
“I had no choice but to allow her bring them to live with us after much appeal but since they moved in with us, she had been giving me problems”.
He, however, blamed his action on a family spell which had not allowed him to settle down maritally
“It wasn’t intentional but I realised my mistake. I regretted what I did to my wife and stepchildren”, the suspect said.
Police spokesperson in Ondo, Funmi Odunlami, said the suspect, during interrogation, “claimed his wife was not taking care of him because of the stepchildren and that the wife picked up a quarrel with him because he dropped ¦ 600 as feeding money for the family.
“The husband also said that he became angry, siphoned petrol from his chainsaw (felling machine) and poured it in the children’s room before setting it ablaze”, Odunlami said.
“The twins bore for the suspect by the mother of those children are in safe condition, as they were not in the same room with their step siblings”.
According to her, on November 5, 2022, a case of arson/murder was reported at Enu-Owa Division.
“The complainant stated that at about 0300hrs, he heard a cry for help from his neighbor’s step-children’s room and discovered that the room was on fire”, the spokesperson said.
“He was, however, able to save four out of the five children in the room. The mother, while trying to save her children, also got affected.
“Tayo Akinfolarin, aged 7 years, was burnt beyond recognition while the other four children were rushed to FMC, Owo.
“Aanu Akinfolarin, aged 10 years, died on the way to the hospital and Tope Akinfolarin, aged 14 years, died on the 8th of November, 2022, while the two other children are still receiving treatment in the hospital”.
l want justice, my children were roasted like bush meat – Father of victims
Meanwhile, the biological father of the five children, Liadi Akinfolarin, has demanded justice.
Akinfolarin narrated his story: “My wife packed out of our matrimonial house and left the children for me to cater for because of the man that now burnt my children.
“I worked on the farm as a tractor driver. The children used to stay with me whenever I did not go to the farm. At times, I would stay on the farm for three to four days before coming home. And during that period, the children stayed with their mother till I returned from work.
“Most times when I’m back from the farm on Fridays, I would call their mother to tell them I was back. And they would stay in my place till Monday when they would go to school.
“After closing, they would go to their mother till when I will be around. That’s how we had been doing it.
“On that fateful Friday, I returned home late from work. So, I couldn’t call them because I knew they would come to my place on Saturday.
“But around 4 pm, I received a call from an unknown person who told me that the house of my former wife’s husband was on fire.
“But I did not answer the person because the woman is no longer my wife. My phone rang again around 6pm, and the person said my children wanted to speak with me.